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April’s Bestselling Signed Books

signed

There’s nothing like a Pulitzer Prize to boost book sales. Following the Pulitzer announcements on April 18th, winning titles skyrocketed to the top of the bestsellers’ list. Number 2 on our list of bestselling signed books is Custer’s Trials, the Pulitzer Prize winner in the History category. Fiction winner The Sympathizer appears at number six, while Pulitzer finalist Get in Trouble comes in at number 10.  Congratulations to this year’s winners!

1. The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son On Life, Love, and Loss by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt

2. Custer’s Trials by T.J. Stiles

3. The North Water by Ian McGuire

4. The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien

5. A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk

6. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

7. The Ancient Minstrel by Jim Harrison

8. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeny

9. Morning Star: Book III of the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

10. Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link


JK Rowling’s chair sells for £278,000

The chair that JK Rowling used while writing the first two Harry Potter books has sold for £278,000 at auction in New York, reports The Guardian. She penned Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets while sitting on the chair. The 1930s chair was one of four mismatched chairs given to the then little-known writer for her council flat in Edinburgh. Let’s just say JK Rowling is no longer living in a council flat or acquiring secondhand furniture.


Bookseller Q&A: Yesterday’s Muse

Jonathan Smalter in front of his bookstore, Yesterday's Muse.

Jonathan Smalter in front of his bookstore, Yesterday’s Muse.

Located in Webster, New York, AbeBooks bookseller Yesterday’s Muse offers a everything from American and military history books, to literature and finely illustrated editions. Owner Jonathan Smalter is a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA), the association that represents the nation’s finest booksellers. He is a 2011 graduate of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS), and has served as co-organizer of the annual Rochester (NY) Antiquarian Book Fair since 2013. With over over fifteen years of experience in the book industry, we were eager to ask Jonathan a few questions about his trade.

AbeBooks: How did you become a bookseller?

Jonathan: I began working at a used bookstore when I was 17, and began selling books online in a limited capacity during college. Upon graduating, I pursued this full time, and have done so ever since. This year will mark the point at which I can say that I have been selling books professionally for half my life (I will be 34 in May). I opened my ‘brick & mortar’ shop in December of 2008.

AbeBooks: What do you love most about selling books?

Jonathan: I enjoy book selling because every day is different, and I get to learn new things constantly. Researching unusual and scarce material is a challenge, and meeting fellow bibliophiles (both customers and colleagues), who always seem willing – sometimes eager – to share their knowledge, keeps life interesting.

AbeBooks: What is the most prized item in your inventory? Why?

Jonathan: Currently I own a second American edition of Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, which is significant for two reasons: 1) This particular copy was owned by four generations of the Beecher-Stowe family (Lyman Beecher; Harriet Beecher-Stowe and her husband [the latter jotted marginal notes on one page]; and their son and grandson). 2) This specific copy of the book is mentioned in Harriet Beecher-Stowe’s ‘Poganuc People’: “It was a happy hour when [father] brought home and set up in his book-case Cotton Mather’s Magnalia, in a new edition of two volumes.” The work itself is an important one, but what I love most is describing the process of researching the provenance.

Yesterday's Muse

Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, owned by four generations of the Beecher-Stowe family.

AbeBooks: What’s the one book you covet most? Why?

Jonathan: Choosing one is difficult, so I’ll cheat and give you two answers. The first is a signed copy of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, in the limited edition with Johns-Manville Quinterra (asbestos) boards. The second, which is my favorite book, I have had in the first edition, signed by the author: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin. This was early in my career, when keeping books for myself was less advisable, so I no longer have it. I think perhaps I covet the latter more because I let it get away once. Both are available, but I would prefer to find them ‘in the field’ if I am going to add them to my personal collection… so the hunt continues.

AbeBooks: What’s the oddest thing you’ve found in a book?

Jonathan: While not the oddest single object taken by itself, I thought the Ku Klux Klan pamphlet I found laid into a copy of the Bible was among the interfoliata more worthy of remark. I kept them together initially, with note on the somewhat troubling juxtaposition included in my description. Recently, though, a customer purchased the Bible and requested that the pamphlet not be included with his order.

AbeBooks: What’s your most memorable moment as a bookseller?

Jonathan: While I cannot properly call it a single moment, I think attending the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar in 2011 was a pivotal event in my career. Since then I have become a member of the ABAA, established more professional relationships, made more friends in the trade, and pursued a wider range of activities related to the book trade. This year will be my first year organizing the Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair, and I am also president of the Rochester Bibliophile Society. I think all these accomplishments can trace their roots back to the seminar in Colorado.

AbeBooks: And of course, what’s your favorite book?

Jonathan: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin. It is among a very few books I have read more than twice.


March’s bestselling signed books

march-signed

March saw the passing of prolific American writer Pat Conroy (1945-2016), author of The Prince of Tides and Beach Music, and author Jim Harrison (1937-2016) who was known for his poetry, essays, and reviews. Harrison’s last collection of stories, The Ancient Minstrel, was published on March 1st. Both authors leave a legacy of beloved books behind, as seen on March’s list of bestselling signed books.

1. A Time of Torment by John Connolly

2. Morning Star: Book III of the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

3. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

4. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

5. The Ancient Minstrel by Jim Harrison

6. My Losing Season by Pat Conroy

7. Some Rain Must Fall by Karl Ove Knausgaard

8. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by Edward O. Wilson

9. The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy

10. South of Broad by Pat Conroy


Edward Nudelman and the art of selling beautifully illustrated books

Art makes the world go round, according to Edward Nudelman, owner of Nudelman Rare Books in Seattle. This discerning dealer, with more than 30 years bookselling experience, relishes beautiful illustrated books and has a particular passion for European art movements from the 19th and 20th century.

In fact, a tour of his inventory is a stroll through the European art movements that shaped our world. There are examples of Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna’s Workshops), the early 20th century collective of artists and designers famous for its black and white designs and patterns. There are also examples from the Victorian Arts and Craft movement. You will find a good helping of Pre-Raphaelite items ranging from The Flower Book by Edward Burne-Jones to poetry by Christina Rossetti, famous for writing Goblin Market.

Bookseller Edward Nudelman

You will see the word ‘Jugendstil‘ mentioned when browsing Edward’s inventory- Jugendstil is a style of art that originated in Germany at the end of the 19th century that took its name from a Munich magazine called Die Jugend (The Youth), which extensively used Art Nouveau designs.

“I am drawn to the books that were published in Germany between the 1880s and the 1920s,” said Edward. “Some beautiful books were produced and I studied this period for years. The artwork is often highly symbolic. I also offer manuscripts, letters and ephemera from this era. I am usually drawn to items that are scarce and interesting rather than simply just expensive.”

A member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America since 1983, Edward’s original career was working as a scientist in cancer research. He began collecting at the end of the 1970s and started selling books in the 1980s while juggling his medical career.

He became a full-time bookseller after retiring from life in the laboratory. Today, his knowledge of art and children’s illustrated books ensures strong demand for his services – aside from book dealing, he builds book collections for clients and consults for major auction houses.

In the early days of his bookselling career, Edward favoured classic children’s books. Jessie Willcox Smith – the American illustrator who worked for the likes of Good Housekeeping, Collier’s and Harper’s – has been close to his heart for many years. That accumulated knowledge about Smith resulted in Edward writing a biography and bibliography about the artist, who illustrated more than 60 books.

For more information about Edward, read this Fine Books Magazine interview from 2012.

Select items from Nudelman Rare Books

The Book of the Child offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1902 in New York by Frederick A Stokes, The Book of the Child features cover inserts on the front and back by Jessie Willcox Smith, and also three full-page color plates from the illustrator and four more by Elizabeth Shippen Green. This is considered to be Smith’s greatest book, both in size and colour and composition, and produced in collaboration with Shippen Green. Learn more

Les Mois offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1895 in Paris, Les Mois is an excellent example of Art Nouveau offered by Nudelman Rare Books. Folio sized, this item has three-quarter vellum-style boards with handmade marbled paper boards and morocco label on its spine. Eugene Grasset designed the artwork for the 1896 calendar of the Parisian department store, La Belle Jardiniere. Learn more

Der Buntscheck offered by Nudelman Rare Books

One of the finest of all Jugendstil books, this title contains full colour illustrations by Konrad F.E. von Freyhold, Karl Hofer, Ernst Kreidolf, Emil Rudolf Weiss and others. An important item in the history of German publishing. Learn more

Rumpumpel offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1919, this colour pochoir is illustrated by Karl Hofer, one of the greatest Jugendstil artists. Learn more

Stories from Han Andersen offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1890 by Ernest Nister in green cloth. Features six chromolithographic plates by E.S. Hard and black and white line drawings throughout. Learn more

A Strange Experiment offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1897, the scarce first title from the Philosopher Press with an Art Nouveau-style cover design by Gardner C. Teall. Learn more

L’Annee Chretienne offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1899, the boards of L’Annee Chretienne feature a fine Art Nouveau illustration. Inside are 12 full page colour plates by French artist Leon Rudnicki. Learn more

Der Fliegende Konig offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1900, a scarce Jugendstil title with a striking cover reminiscent of Wiener Werkstatte design. Learn more

Leda ou La Louange des Bienheureuses Tenebres offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1898 in Paris, this is #319 of 600 copies. A beautiful example of French Art Nouveau featuring artwork by Paul-Albert Laurens. Learn more

Deutsche Marchen; Jungbrunnen Marchen offered by Nudelman Rare Books

A first edition from 1900 – an example of Jugendstil with black and white illustrations detailing stories by Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and others. Learn more

Nussknacker und Mausekonig offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1909, another example of Jugendstil in gray-green cloth with a pictorial design stamped in black and white on the cover. Color plates throughout by Otto Bauriedl and Ernst Kutzer. Learn more


Bookseller Q&A: Underground Books

Josh and Megan, owners of Underground Books.

Josh and Megan, owners of Underground Books.

Underground Books is a charming antiquarian, rare, and used bookshop just off of historic Adamson Square in downtown Carrollton, Georgia that aims to be a bibliophile’s destination and a browser’s paradise. With a fascinating and unusual collection of beautiful, uncommon, and thought provoking books, Underground Books is sure to leave the serious book lover dizzy with serendipitous finds. The bookshop is literally underground, and patrons must descend a short staircase to enter the shop. A true community bookstore, the down payment for purchasing the building was raised completely from crowdfunding. Owners Josh Niesse and Megan Bell met just after Josh opened the shop in March of 2011, were married in May of 2014, and now operate their book business together, with Josh manning the shop and Megan cataloging the rare and antiquarian books for online sale. Both Megan and Josh have attended the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, Josh on a scholarship sponsored by AbeBooks in 2011. Underground Books is committed to creative reuse and upcycling, with journals made from damaged vintage books, magnets and pins made from their illustrations, and the shop’s signature piece, the book arch, made completely from books in poor condition.

We caught up with Megan for a quick Q&A about the world of book selling.

AbeBooks: How did you become a bookseller?

Megan: I was a freshman English major at our local university, when a friend told me a new bookstore had opened on our town square. I walked into Underground Books two weeks after Josh opened the doors and was immediately taken with the shelves and shelves of books, the cozy, quirky aesthetic, and the nerdy proprietor. Courting a bookstore owner ended up looking an awful lot like working in a bookstore—a definite perk! After graduating, I joined the shop full-time as the co-owner and resident cataloger. I love spending my days handling, researching, and playing with rare and antiquarian books!

AbeBooks: What do you love most about selling books?

Megan: Book people! Kurt Vonnegut once said, “By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.” The book-lover to book-lover relationship is an extension of this and is truly miraculous to us. It’s a joy to talk books all day, and it’s an honor to send a favourite book home with a new friend. I’m also a scholar at heart, and I love learning something new every day, whether it’s discovering the poets of Black Mountain College or learning that Frances E. Willard had a shepherd collie named Prohibition.

Vintage books on display at Underground Books.

Vintage books on display at Underground Books.

AbeBooks: What is the most prized item in your inventory? Why?

Megan: One of my personal favourites is The Greek Romances of Heliodorus, Longus, and Achilles Tatius. It’s an absolutely stunningly bound collection of these ancient, totally wild romances. Lovers in peril, bandits, nymphs, and the great god Pan—what more do you need? For Josh, it’s this Tamerlane Edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s collected works, thoroughly illustrated throughout by Frederick Simpson Coburn. We love the previous owner’s bookplates in this series—it looks like he had a photographer come to his library and take a snapshot of him looking very studious!

A bookplate from Underground Books' Tamerlane Edition of Edgar Allan Poe's collected works.

A bookplate from Underground Books’ Tamerlane Edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s collected works.

AbeBooks: What’s the one book you covet most? Why?

Megan: Last year, Bernard Quaritch held Frances Currer’s first edition copy of Thomas Bewick’s History of British Birds, the book Jane Eyre is reading at the beginning of the novel by Charlotte Bronte. Frances Currer was not only a distinguished book collector in a field dominated by men (Seymour de Rici called her “England’s earliest female bibliophile” in his history of collectors), but she patronized the school the Bronte sisters attended, and, though it’s not provable, it seems likely Charlotte chose her pen name, Currer Bell, in honor of Frances. All of the significance, literary history, women’s history, and mystery of this book just captivates me!

AbeBooks: What’s the oddest thing you’ve found in a book?

Megan: We have a collection of things we’ve found, and I’m partial to putting even grocery lists in it, but there’s definitely a front runner for weirdness. We recently found a signed pitch card of Tiny Lavonda, “the smallest woman in the world,” a sideshow performer with the Clyde Beatty circus in the ’40s. It shows her with her Chihuahua and has a poem written by her on the verso. It was so unexpected, and I love it so much; I don’t think I can part with it!

Underground Books

A peek inside Underground Books.

AbeBooks: What’s your most memorable moment as a bookseller?

Megan: We both agree it was attending the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, Josh in 2011 (on a scholarship from AbeBooks!) and Megan in 2014 (on an ABAA scholarship). It’s a challenging week, full of serious instruction from titans of book selling and librarianship, with vigorous learning, frantic note-taking, midnight talks with peers, and all the camaraderie of this trade. It’s a mountaintop experience.

AbeBooks: And of course, what’s your favourite book?

Megan: Josh’s background is in philosophy, but he’s a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut and other smart funny authors like Tom Robbins. Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael and James Howard Kunstler’s Geography of Nowhere had big impacts on him when he was young, and he still mentions them frequently. I love Margaret Atwood, Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf…but it’s the Harry Potter series. I am devoted. I burst into tears when I found out we were going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I wrote an essay comparing CABS to Hogwarts for the Fine Books & Collections blog. I reread them every few years and find myself as immersed and enamored as I was at eight.

Flowers for a bibliophile, at Underground Books.

Flowers for a bibliophile, at Underground Books.


Celebrate UNESCO’s 2016 World Book & Copyright Day with ILAB’s Pop-up Book Fairs

Portland group

AbeBooks’ Jessica Doyle (far right) with the booksellers at the 2015 Portland, Oregon, pop-up rare book fair

April 23 is going to be another special day for booklovers. UNESCO’s 2016 World Book & Copyright Day will feature book-related events on a worldwide scale with ILAB’s contribution being a series of pop-up book fairs displaying rare and collectable books from the four corners of the Earth.

ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) is repeating a successful programme introduced in 2015 on World Book Day that put rare books in front of thousands of people. Last year ILAB activities raised more than 10,000 Euros for UNESCO’s Forest Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI), which provides literacy assistance to children in South Sudan.

This year’s series of pop-up book fairs is promising to be even better. They stretch from Australia to the United States and from the United Kingdom to Russia, and numerous other European countries.

Put the date in your diary or on your calendar. Find more details on the ILAB blog.

AUSTRALIA

SYDNEY: The first ILAB pop-up fair on UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day 2016 will be the final event of an international conference (Books: Still So Much to Learn and Discover) for librarians, booksellers and anyone interested in rare books held on 21-22 April at the State Library of New South Wales, and organised by the Australian and New Zealand Association of Antiquarian Booksellers (ANZAAB). The day after the conference booksellers will offer rare books, maps and ephemera at the NSW library.

DUNKELD & HAMILTON: Three Victoria booksellers in the Australian bush are raising funds in their bookshops in the weeks leading up to World Book and Copyright Day. Roz Greenwood and Marg Phillips of Roz Greenwood Old & Rare Books and Guy Hamilton of Bellcourt Books are leading the fundraising efforts.

TOKYO, JAPAN

The World Antiquarian Book Plaza in Tokyo will host a pop-up fair organised by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Japan (ABAJ). From Tokyo to Kyoto, Sapporo, Osaka and Kumamoto, Japanese rare book dealers will also decorate windows to raise money for UNESCO.

KOREA

SEOUL, PUSAN & DAEGU: Find rare and fine books with pop-up fairs in these three Korean cities.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA

There will be a free appraisal day at the Moscow State University of the Printing Arts. Bring your books, maps, prints and autographs, and learn their value. There will also be a special exhibition and auction of books about books at bookshops in Moscow.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Antiquarian Auctions and Penguin Random House will host a talk with Susan Buchanan, author of Burchell’s Travels: The Life, Art and Journeys of William John Burchell, and other experts in the field.

SPAIN

BARCELONA: It is a tradition in Barcelona to offer a rose for every book bought on St Jorge’s Day, which coincides with World Book Day. ILAB bookseller Albert Casals and his colleagues will pop up at the famous La Ramblas, to show books and to raise money.

MADRID: April 23 marks the 400th anniversary of the deaths of Shakespeare and Cervantes. Don Quixote was printed in Madrid by Juan de la Cuesta. At Juan’s former house, Spanish booksellers will pop up and present rare editions of Don Quixote and other books about Spanish book history.

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND

At Cabaret Voltaire, where Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp, Hugo Ball, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Marcel Janco and others founded the Dada movement in 1916, Swiss antiquarian booksellers will gather exactly 100 years later for a pop-up book fair. See a Dada performance and a presentation of rare first editions.

MUNICH, GERMANY

“Book Tales & Cocktails” was a major success last year, so Munich’s rare book dealers are repeating the event at Kaufmanns Casino, where 15 antiquarian booksellers from Bavaria will once again show extraordinary books. Enjoy music, drinks, finger food, and a lecture on “Early 20th Century German Publishing” by collector and publisher Klaus G. Saur.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY

Hungarian booksellers will hold a pop-up book fair at the Institute Cervantes to marks the 400th anniversary of the author’s death. Support literacy, see the Don Quixote exhibition and browse bibliophile treasures.

PARIS, FRANCE

Enjoy free entry to the Salon International du Livre Rare & de l’Autographe in the Grand Palais on 23 April in exchange for a donation to UNESCO’s South Sudan literacy project. Look out for the Miguel de Cervantes exhibition.

NETHERLANDS

AMSTERDAM: Frank Rutten, Sascha Kok and other Amsterdam booksellers are staging a ‘UNESCO Night of the Books’, with music and theater.

HAARLEM: Visit a pop-up book market on Kruisstraat in the historical centre of Haarlem.

GRONINGEN: Antiquariat Isis, ILAB’s only member in this part of Holland, is staging a special pop-up celebration at Folkingestraat in Groninge.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

Antiquarian booksellers will pop up in the foyers of Copenhagen libraries.

SWEDEN

STOCKHOLM: The Stockholm Culture Night celebrates art, music, dance and literature throughout the Swedish capital. Look out for Mats Petterson, Mats Rehnströhm and other Swedish booksellers popping up at the Royal Swedish Academy of Art to present treasures from the history of printing in Sweden.

LUND: Pierre Dethorey from Akarps Antikvariat at Kalkstensvägen 21 is organizing a special exhibition of more than 200 Swedish chapbooks and catch-penny-prints.

OXFORD, UNITED KINGDOM

Booksellers from the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA) and colleagues in the Provincial Booksellers’ Association (PBFA) will join together at one of Britain’s largest book fairs, the Oxford Premier Fair, on April 23 and 24, to support the UNESCO initiative.

UNITED STATES

CHICAGO: Kurt Gippert and fellow Windy City booksellers will hold a pop-up book fair overlooking Lake Michigan.

SEATTLE: ILAB booksellers will be in the Madison Room at the Sorrento Hotel for a pop-up book fair including a six-hour appraisal event.

PORTLAND, OREGON: Join ABAA bookseller Elisabeth Burdon of Old Imprints and some of her colleagues in celebrating the final ILAB event of World Book Day.


One Dog, Thousands of Books – O’Connell’s Bookshop in Adelaide

O’Connell’s Bookshop in Adelaide

O’Connell’s Bookshop is an Australian bookselling institution. Established in 1957 by Reg O’Connell, the bookstore is revered by book-lovers far beyond its surroundings of Bank Street in Adelaide, South Australia.

Adelaide’s oldest used and antiquarian bookshop is now at its fifth location. Its previous building was demolished to make way for a Holiday Inn. While other used bookshops have come and gone, O’Connell’s has displayed remarkable resilience.

Ben O’Connell and Oscar the dog

The dog in the picture sitting alongside owner Ben O’Connell is Oscar, a handsome whippet, who is at home among the bookshelves.

“Oscar has been in the shop since he was eight weeks old and he’s now three,” said Ben, who is Reg’s grandson. “He has many fans who come to visit him and bring him treats. We offer a vast range of books from recent releases to rare antiquities. One customer said we are ‘scholarly but not intimidating.”’

Ben adds that many famous figures have browsed the shop’s shelves including writer and feminist Germaine Greer, cultural critic Clive James, comedian Barry Humphries, author Richard Dawkins, cricketer Steve Waugh, broadcaster David Attenborough and rock group the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

“We are very proud of the fact that we still have customers who’ve been coming to the shop for 40 or 50 years,” said Ben of this third generation family business.

Ben has a passion for antiquarian books but wasn’t afraid to introduce graphic novels to appeal to a different generation of readers.

Examples of the gems you’ll find inside O’Connell’s include Australiana, biographies, gardening and botany, and histories of New Zealand.

While browsing O’Connell’s Facebook page, we came across this wonderful picture of Clip and Groom Your Own Poodle – look at the gentleman on the cover image. What perfect hair for a dog groomer, and surely a candidate for our Weird Book Room.

Clip and Groom your own Poodle


February’s bestselling signed books

February's bestselling signed books

1. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

2. Morning Star: Book III of the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

3. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco

4. The Drowned Detective by Neil Jordan

5. M Train by Patti Smith

6. In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

7. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

8. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

9. The Widow by Fiona Barton

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


The Books of the Films of Meryl Streep

She’s an icon of modern cinema with more than 50 film roles to her credit. She has a trophy cabinet full of silverware, including three Oscars and eight Golden Globes. You’ve probably seen the majority of her films. We’re talking about Meryl Streep – the leading lady of Hollywood’s leading ladies.

Meryl Streep by Karina Longworth

But, as so often with movies, books have inspired many of Streep’s films. In fact, if you want an original reading list for a year of solid literature then you could do a lot worse than the books that served as the basis for her movies.

Oddly, for an actress who has appeared in so many influential films, there are not many good books about Streep herself. Perhaps only Phaidon’s Meryl Streep: Anatomy of an Actor by Karina Longworth and Ian Johnstone’s Streep: A Life in Film are worth a look.

Streep, born in New Jersey in 1949, is one of only six actors to have won three or more Academy Awards.

There are some major literary successes on this list including The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Bridges of Madison County, The Giver, Out of Africa, Kramer vs Kramer, and Sophie’s Choice. These books also cover cooking, blogging, foxes, numerous love stories and families falling to pieces, fashion, and music.

Meryl’s Movie Bookshelf

Pentimento by Lillian Hellman

Julia (1977)

Based on Lillian Hellman’s memoir Pentimento, Julia was Streep’s first film role after she cut her teeth in theatre. A chapter of Pentimento describes Hellman’s relationship with Julia, who fought against the Nazis in the years prior to World War II. The movie starred Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, and Maximilian Schell with Streep in a supporting role.

The Deer Hunter (1978)

This remarkable film about the Vietnam War was based in part on an unproduced screenplay called The Man Who Came to Play by Louis Garfinkle and Quinn K. Redeker, about Las Vegas and Russian roulette. There is a novelization, by Eric Corder, of the screenplay.

Manhattan (1979)

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles

The screenplay of this romantic comedy was written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman. You can find the screenplay in a book format in Four Films of Woody Allen (and Annie Hall, Interiors and Stardust Memories are the other three films).

The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979)

The screenplay of this political drama, featuring a senator who has an affair, was written by Alan Alda, who also played the title role. A novelization by Richard Cohen exists.

Kramer vs Kramer (1979)

Adapted by Robert Benton from the novel of the same name by Avery Corman. Streep starred with Dustin Hoffman in this bitter tale of a family split in half.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

Based on the 1969 novel by John Fowles, it’s a non-traditional Victorian love affair where gentleman and naturalist Charles Smithson falls in love with Sarah Woodruff. Jeremy Irons starred alongside Streep.

Still of the Night (1982)

Not based on a book, the screenplay was written by Robert Benton and David Newman. In case you’ve forgotten, this movie was a psychological thriller co-starring Roy Scheider.

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

A National Book Award winner in 1980, William Styron’s novel concerns three people sharing a boarding house in Brooklyn – a young writer, a Jew and his lover who is a Polish concentration camp survivor. The catastrophic decision referenced in the novel’s title is believed to be based on actual events.

Silkwood (1983)

Plenty by David Hare

The screenplay was written by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen. There are now several books about the life and death of activist Karen Silkwood, including The Killing of Karen Silkwood by Richard L. Rashke, and Who Killed Karen Silkwood? by Howard Kohn.

Falling in Love (1984)

Michael Cristofer wrote the screenplay. We can skip this romantic comedy co-starring Robert DeNiro, although there is a scene in the Rizzoli bookstore in New York.

Plenty (1985)

Adapted from David Hare’s play of the same name. The story concerns an Englishwoman who struggles to recover from her experiences of fighting with the French Resistance in World War II.

Out of Africa (1985)

Ironweed by William Kennedy

Inspired by Isak Dinesen’s autobiographical book Out of Africa (Dinesen was the pseudonym of Danish author Karen Blixen) published in 1937. The book focuses on Blixen’s life in Kenya, then called British East Africa, and offers an insight into colonial life.

Heartburn (1986)

The screenplay by Nora Ephron is based on her semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, which was inspired by her marriage to Carl Bernstein and his affair with Margaret Jay. Streep starred alongside Jack Nicholson.

Ironweed (1987)

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by William Kennedy, who also wrote the screenplay. Again Nicolson co-stars. The story features a homeless couple and their travails during the Great Depression.

Evil Angels / A Cry in the Dark (1988)

The Live and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

A film with two names. The screenplay by Fred Schepisi and Robert Caswell is based on John Bryson’s 1985 book, Evil Angels. The story details Australian Lindy Chamberlain, who was tried for the murder of her baby. She claimed the child was taken from a tent by a dingo.

She-Devil (1989)

A very loose adaptation of the 1983 novel The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon. An ugly woman goes to great lengths to wreak revenge on her cheating husband and his pretty mistress.

Postcards from the Edge (1990)

This film was based on Carrie Fisher’s 1987 semi-autobiographical novel of the same title. Fisher, who rose to worldwide fame as Princess Leia, had a bizarre Hollywood upbringing as the daughter of screen star Debbie Reynolds.

Defending your Life (1991)

The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende

Albert Brooks wrote, directed and starred in this romantic afterlife comedy. Let’s be thankful there’s no book.

Death Becomes Her (1992)

Scripted by David Koepp and Martin Donovan. A forgettable black comedy fantasy – again no book.

The House of Spirits (1993)

Based on the 1982 novel La Casa de los Espíritus (The House of Spirits in English) by Isabel Allende. This debut novel was conceived by Allende when she heard her 100-year-old grandfather was dying. It tells the story of four generations on the Trueba family through Chile’s many social and political upheavals.

The River Wild (1994)

Screenplay by Denis O’Neill. No book. A rafting adventure in which Streep nearly drowned during filming.

The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Robert James Waller. A love story between Robert Kincaid, photographer and free spirit, and farmer’s wife Francesca Johnson. Clint Eastwood starred opposite Streep.

Before and After (1996)

Based on Before and After by Rosellen Brown. The story centers on a death in a small Massachusetts town. Liam Neeson co-starred.

Marvin’s Room (1996)

Based on the play of the same name by Scott McPherson. The tale of one family’s journey through humour, heartache, separation and self-discovery around physical and mental health.

Dancing at Lughnasa (1998)

Adapted from the Brian Friel play of the same title. Five unmarried sisters in a remote Irish village just before World War II see their isolated world fall apart. Irish angst galore.

One True Thing by Anna Quindlen

One True Thing (1998)

Adapted by Karen Croner from the novel by Anna Quindlen. The story is based on Quindlen’s real life struggle to accept the death of her mother in 1972, due to ovarian cancer. William Hurt co-starred.

Music of the Heart (1999)

Pamela Gray wrote the screenplay. It’s a dramatization of the true story of Roberta Guaspari, who co-founded the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music. There is a book about it called Music of the Heart: The Roberta Guaspari Story co-written by Warren Larkin.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Streep has just a small part in this science fiction film. The screenplay is partially based on the 1969 short story Supertoys Last All Summer Long by Brian Aldiss, which deals with life in an age of intelligent machines.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

The Adaptation (2002)

A comedy drama directed by Spike Jonze based on Susan Orlean’s non-fiction book The Orchid Thief, which deals with the poaching of rare flowers in South Florida.

The Hours (2002)

Based on Michael Cunningham’s 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same title. The book concerns three women affected by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway novel, including Woolf herself.

Stuck on You (2003)

Streep makes an uncredited cameo appearance. It’s a comedy (!) about cojoined twins. There’s no book.

The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

The film is based on Richard Condon’s 1959 novel of the same name. Denzel Washington stars. The novel is a rollicking good political thriller with brainwashing, communists and lashings of conspiracy.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

You all know Daniel Handler’s bestselling series of children’s books. The movie covers the first three books – The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window.

Prime (2005)

A prime flop. A romantic comedy starring Uma Thurman. Streep plays a therapist. No book. We’ll move along.

A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

Directed by Robert Altman. A fictional vision of behind-the-scenes at the famous NPR show of the same name. There are all sorts of books associated with the show.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Based on Lauren Weisberger’s 2003 novel of the same name. Anne Hathaway starred as the college grad terrorized by Streep’s fashion magazine editor. Was Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, the inspiration for Streep’s character?

The Ant Bully (2006)

A computer-animated children’s adventure based on the 1999 children’s book of the same name by John Nickle.

Dark Matter (2007)

This film is loosely based on a shooting at the University of Iowa. No book.

Evening (2007)

A drama based on the 1998 novel of the same name by Susan Minot. A dying woman looks back on her confusing past.

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

Rendition (2007)

A thriller about the CIA and their abduction practices. No book.

Lions for Lambs (2007)

A modern warfare drama film. No book. Robert Redford directed.

Mamma Mia! (2008)

“Gimme, gimme, gimme, a man after midnight. Won’t somebody help me chase the shadows away?” Meryl sings too. The film version of the smash Broadway production, which salutes the songs of ABBA.

Doubt (2008)

A drama adapted from John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer-winning play Doubt: A Parable. Misdeeds in a Catholic school.

Julie & Julia (2009)

Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl

A comedy drama inspired by a blog and a book. The film looks at the lives of chef Julia Child and New York blogger Julie Powell, who aspires to cook all 524 recipes from Child’s iconic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a challenge that moved from the blogosphere to the printed page (Julie and Julia).

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

The farmers versus the foxes. Roald Dahl’s much loved children’s story was the basis for this animated film. Streep provided the voice of Mrs. Fox.

It’s Complicated (2009)

It got mixed reviews. Another rom-com where Streep is a bakery owner and single mother of three who starts a secret affair with her ex-husband. No book.

Higglety Pigglety! Or There Must be More to Life (2010)

The Homesman by Glendon Swarthout

A live-action/animated short film about the adventures of Jennie the dog. It’s based on Maurice Sendak’s 1967 children’s book.

The Iron Lady (2011)

Not based on a book but there are several notable biographies of Margaret Thatcher, including The Iron Lady by Hugo Young. Alan Clark’s Diaries describe her downfall from the inside. For the other side of the coin, try Things Can Only Get Better by John O’Farrell.

Hope Springs (2012)

Yet another romantic comedy, this time with Tommy Lee Jones. No book.

August: Osage County (2013)

A drama based on John Wells’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor also star in this tale of a dysfunctional family that reunites after a disappearance. No book.

My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst

The Giver (2014)

Streep plays the Chief Elder in this dystopian science fiction drama based on Lois Lowry’s much loved and much studied 1993 novel set in a peaceful, ordered community that has some dark secrets.

The Homesman (2014)

A period drama set in the 1850s Midwest based in Glendon Swarthout’s novel of the same name. Streep plays the wife of a priest in this story about pioneer women on the edge of a breakdown.

Into the Woods (2014)

Inspired by Grimm’s Fairy Tales, this is a musical fantasy based on the Broadway musical of the same name.

Ricki and the Flash (2015)

A comedy drama where a wife leaves her family to become a rock star. No book.

Suffragette (2015)

An historical drama with Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British suffragette movement. It’s not based on a book but My Own Story by Pankhurst tells her remarkable tale of fighting for women’s rights.